Chapter 5

I was staring at the handkerchief for the millionth time when I heard footsteps approaching. Two knocks on my door were enough to send me into a tidying up frenzy. It wasn’t safe to bring the handkerchief around, so I put it back to the box along with other stuffs and slid it under my bed. My door was opened as soon as I jumped on to the bed, posing as natural as I could.

“Hey, Mom,” I grinned widely as my mom opened the door. She couldn’t just find out that I had been keeping the dirty handkerchief she had thrown out before. She would ask questions and that would end up with me having to tell her about Carson.

“Someone’s here to see you,” she said.

Another figure appeared behind her. A boy with a neck length, black hair smiled radiantly as our eyes met.

“Elliott?” I gasped. I got on my feet and just received the hug from his muscular body, still with a bewildered expression. “Elliott Calloway?”

Elliott released the hug and stared at me with one eyebrow raised. “You’re acting like you haven’t seen me in years.”

“Because I have not!” An apologetic smile spread across my face.

“Didn’t you see him in Nathan’s Alpha crowning ceremony?” Mom frowned her brows.

“That was four years ago,” I rolled my eyes. “Besides, was it really my fault that we didn’t see eye to eye?”

Elliott chuckled awkwardly. The youngest in his pack, he had his own perception that he had to obey what the others said, especially if it was Nathan. It was known to man that Thea Whitlock was the less important sister of Nathan Whitlock, so Elliott himself would avoid having a conversation with me more than ten seconds.

After he had his own pack, Nathan barely cared about me anyway. Selene was still talking to me. There was no reason why Elliott who was my good friend back in Grassmere would stop contacting me altogether.

Then, another name crossed my mind: Drake. The loyal best-friend-slash-follower of Nathan, who took making fun of me as a hobby, was Elliott’s cousin.

“That’s actually why I’m here,” Elliott spoke before the supposed reunion went south. “I heard from my uncle that your dad wanted to celebrate Full Moon with us. I’m here to help you prepare.”

Wow, it was actually very kind of him. I didn’t have an immediate respond until my Mom said, “Well, I’m gonna leave you kids to plan. We don’t need a big celebration, just enough for offerings and gathering.”

After Mom left, I stared at Elliott. “Did your Uncle Mack put you up to this? I know you hate getting busy unless it’s for Nathan.”

“Come on, Thea. There isn’t enough apology in the world for you to finally forgive me, is there?”

“Leaving me to eat my lunch alone didn’t really need an apology,” I giggled. “I guess I was just jealous of you guys. My own brother didn’t even want me in his pack, but he enlisted my best friend instead.”

“Oh, I’m your best friend now?” He elbowed me jokingly.

“You would have, if only you stuck around with me at lunch a little bit longer.”

Elliott’s laugh didn’t change at all. When he was with me, he looked more carefree. Joining the elite pack—other tribes would say so when they saw Nathan’s pack—forced him to act more mature and put a menacing cover to his warm personality. I actually pitied him, but he didn’t seem to mind.

As soon as we stepped outside, the sun started to set and the street lights flickered on. It was calm and quiet like any other evening. There was quite a distance between houses, so I rarely saw anyone walked down the street.

“We should start by looking for a place to hold the gathering,” Elliott said. “Good thing your house is near the woods. Maybe there was a clearing on the hill.”

“This isn’t exactly like Grassmere. There are not many hills in Ashborne, although the woods area was a bit bigger,” I explained. “Should we take a look?”

Elliott nodded and we began to enter the woods. Because of our power, we still could see ourselves through the woods, despite the sky getting darker. When exploring the woods, we caught up with each other's lives. From his story, I had a thought that staying in Grassmere would probably be more exciting if only both of our families weren’t so strict.

The Calloways had been taking care of Elliott since he was six. He lost both of his parents in a boat accident, which prompted Malcolm and Anna Calloway to bring him along to join Shadow Striders tribe in Grassmere. Because of the pact which obliged us to stay in small groups, each tribe could only consist of five to seven packs.

The tribe rules weren’t that rigid. You could join any pack from any tribe, but once you did, you became part of the tribe the pack belonged too. Even so, there were many wolves decided to be an Omega, in which they wouldn’t be bound with any packs or tribe. To protect ourselves from any malicious things, however, joining a tribe was very much advised.

Piper Preston, Selene’s mother; Greg Waltz, Bryan’s father; and my dad, Robert Whitlock, were the Elders of the Shadow Striders. Not necessarily an Alpha, they acted as the guardians of the tribe, made decisions, basically doing all the political things you could find in a country. After my dad took our family to leave the tribe, Malcolm ‘Mack’ Calloway took his place.

Elliott also said that the last pack of the tribe was finally created when Ander Lopez became an Alpha. Ander went to the same elementary school as we were. Unlike Elliott, he had no interest in joining Nathan’s circle, even though he and his friends were sending harsh comments towards me before as well.

“Alpha Ander. Does that sound wrong to you?” I giggled.

“Please. He’s been rubbing that on my face every day. I belong to one of the best pack in the whole world, so it really doesn’t budge me at all,” Elliott said.

“Really? Isn’t it every wolf’s dream to become an Alpha—to be somehow in charge?”

“Oh, is it yours?”

The returned question wasn’t expected at all. I shook my head immediately. “Never in a million years that I think of having my own pack.”

“I can say the same about me. If anything, I’m actually interested to become one of the Tribe Elders,” he shrugged.

“A Tribe Elder?” I gasped, holding a laugh. “It’s like—the most boring job any wolves would ever think of!”

“It’s also the most responsible job,” he defended.

“Exactly, Elliott.” I stepped on a twig and it split in two. “One thing—one thing—goes wrong, and you’re blamed for the rest of your life.”

“I know all the consequences, Tee.”

I stopped walking and turned around to face Elliott. The atmosphere around us suddenly became serious, and I couldn’t help but look into his eyes.

“Why do you think my dad moved us out of Grassmere? Leaving the tribe?” I asked. “If you were thinking, ‘because Thea was almost got killed by hunters’, you were half right. My dad thought that he couldn’t even protect his own daughter—imagine if it was 30 people?”

Elliott was quiet for a moment. From his reaction, he just found out the real reason behind our move.

“I don’t know. Maybe because I’ve seen Uncle Mack take care of me, I’d just like to return the favor for other wolves that have misfortunate lives like me,” he answered sincerely. He put his hands on my shoulders. “You don’t have to worry about it, Tee, but I honestly thank you for worrying about me.”

I had never seen Elliott being so outspoken like this, expressing his heartfelt wish. He had spent years shadowed by Drake, the annoying cousin, the way I was always under Nathan’s. We were actually in the same boat, but the way we saw the world was very different. Elliott was a proud werewolf, but me? Not so much.

Dad might get angry if he heard this, but I actually loved being human. One of the reasons why I still couldn’t shift smoothly was probably because I preferred to stay in my human body compared to my wolf one. Transforming, at least once a month, was still pretty much required to let the wolf out of the restraint. Myths said that wolves who was held in too often would turn into beasts. I didn’t want that to happen to me.


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